These two Australian startups want to help travellers stay online while avoiding bill shock overseas

- July 12, 2016 4 MIN READ
Flexiroam X

RIP to all the victims of global roaming charges, those of us who have ended up with a mobile phone fee that cost more than the holiday. It’s a problem that affects many travellers who forget to turn off global roaming when leaving Australian shores.

Right before holiday season hits, telco companies have been known to in some cases triple to cost of international data. Last year customers of Telstra were charged up to 300 percent for excess data usage abroad.

Given it’s near to impossible to survive even a minute without data, startups are looking for ways to inform and connect travellers with better services and cheaper sim card options.

Recently launched in Australia are two startups, Flexiroam X and FindMyPlan, that aim to cure the problem of shock phone bills and data roaming charges.

Western Australian startup Flexiroam X has created an app that aggregates travellers from all over the world and enables them to use a system of bargaining to bring down global roaming charges.

Generally a gigabyte of data would cost a user $200 when used overseas, however through a community of travellers, Flexiroam is able to negotiate a better rate with telcos and provide gigabytes of data at a wholesale price of $30.

Just by using the app customers can earn ‘free’ data before they leave for their holiday. For example, users download the Flexiroam app and enter into a community of cheap data offers and promotions. By interacting with the app, users can start accumulating data over the course of a year and have that data on stand by for their next holiday. This saves the drama of last minute SIM card shopping for international data.

The Flexiroam app allow users to earn up to 100GB of ‘free’ data per year through various interactions. These interactions include referral of the app to friends via social media and encouraging friends to sign up for membership. Users can also earn extra data through special promotions; for example Flexiroam is currently giving away 500MB of data to all new users who sign up for membership using a promo code.

Unlike a simple pay ‘x’ amount and receive ‘x’ amount of data, with Flexiroam data is accumulated over time. On download and order of the Flexiroam SIM, customers pay a yearly subscription of $9.90, which gives them a year to use the data they have accumulated.

What also makes Flexiroam stand out from the rest is its tailor-made SIM attachment piece. Instead of purchasing a whole new SIM, Flexiroam sends out a microchip to its customers that can be used in hundreds of countries around the world.

The microchip is a thin film that sticks onto a user’s existing SIM card and can be used throughout a traveller’s holiday and can be peeled off after use.

To date over four million megabytes of data have been consumed by Flexiroam customers, who are now looking to align themselves with strategic networks and travel companies. To expand its community of travellers, Flexiroam has worked with AirAsia, Malaysia Airlines and more than 100 travel agencies in various countries.

Cofounder of Flexiroam Jef Ong said the scale of Flexiroam X is representative of a disruptive change to how Australians access data while overseas.

“It encourages intrepid travellers to stay connected and share their adventures with friends and family without breaking the bank,” he said.

The key to providing affordable data to customers is being able to gather volume. Increased volume leads to the negotiation of better rates. The big telco companies in Australia provide SIM packages to their customers, and are still testing out their product offerings in the market.

Sydney startup FindMyPlan, meanwhile, comes as the connection between travellers and telco companies. Buying SIM cards and data bundles at a wholesale rate, FindMyPlan is able to negotiate a better offering for travellers.

“FindMyPlan is a service for your SIM card for anyone from anywhere in the world to to use,” said cofounder of FindMyPlan, Rabieh El Kadi. “Travellers wanting to stay connected when they travel abroad and so we send them a SIM plan, similar to what they need within the country they  originate from.”

“The biggest problem is travellers actually needing a plan that works and a SIM that’s working straight out of the airport so they can use Google Maps.”

FindMyPlan has created an ecommerce website and advertises all the deals they have with carrier companies. Currently the startup has partnered with Vodafone, Lycamobile and 2degrees Mobile. Online, FindMyPlan offers a better deal than what a customer would find in-store and resells plans at a discounted, wholesale price.

Depending on the agreement, FindMyPlan can make commission from anywhere between 25-400 percent. For example with Vodafone on every SIM sale FindMyPlan makes, a 15-25 percent commission is made, depending on the price of activation and bundles.

FindMyPlan has recently worked through the UTS accelerator Hatchery and is now on track to make connections and partnerships with more carriers and travel agents.

“We want to grow significantly and we’re planning to increase our partnerships with telcos around the world, so mainly in the United States, UK, Europe and the Middle East,” El Kadi.

FindMyPlan is also working on a travel buddies program that will ship out SIMs to travel agents and Tourism Australia to offer cheaper SIM bundles to customers. The startup is offering its services as part of a bundle-purchase travel insurance with ‘x’ and receive a free SIM.

In either offering a wholesale connection service or a SIM add-on, startups are challenging the telco industry to innovate. To eliminate global roaming charges it’s up to customers to seek alternatives and startups to educate them on better services and lower rates.

Whether they want to accumulate data or buy SIMs at wholesale rates, it’s clear that customers need to research well before their trip and bypass global roaming for services startups like Flexiroam X and FindMyPlan are offering.

Image: Flexiroam X Team and FindMyPlan Team. Source: Supplied.